In Sickness and In Health

“Heart attack.”

It was an odd text. Short. Abrupt. Void of important details. What was my husband trying to tell me?

“Who is having a heart attack?” I responded, “You???”

No response.

Then, a pit in my stomach. Unbearable weight on my shoulders. The room was spinning. The seconds became minutes until I just could not take it anymore. I needed to know he was okay.

I called his cell phone. No answer. I called again and again. Eventually, a nurse answered. She told me that my husband was in the emergency room suffering a heart attack and was unable to talk to me. She could not tell me how bad it was or if he would be okay.

This was the summer of 2020 at the height of the pandemic, so I could not go to be with him just yet. I had to sit alone with the unknowns. I played the worst case scenarios over and over in my head. I wondered if I knew where all of the important papers were kept, and if I would be able to make the important decisions. I wondered how I would tell our three kids that their dad died. I wondered if he knew how much he was loved. I wondered how I would go on living without my life partner.

In the following few hours he was transported to a hospital that specialized in cardiac emergencies. He was rushed into surgery and had a stent put in. He survived 100% blockage in his left anterior descending artery. He survived “the widow-maker.” He survived because he knew his family history, he knew the warning signs, and he trusted his instincts. And amazingly, he survived with no damage to his actual heart because he was a young, active 42-year old man who received early detection and treatment.

Today, his heart is healthy. He takes his medication and receives regular monitoring. The actual rehabilitation and maintenance side of his recovery was not all that life-altering.

But that day changed everything. That day marked for us the next chapter in our lives and our marriage. He has continued to have his share of health issues, and I have begun to have some of my own. We talk about things like life insurance and wills. We talk about medications, lab results, appointments, ailments, depression/grief for things we can no longer do, and gratitude for things we have done and can.

When I vowed to love my husband in sickness and in health, I honestly had no way of fully understanding what that meant. I know now that I vowed to do more than care about him. I vowed to care for him. I vowed to carry him if need be. In this phase, partnership cannot be 50/50 all of the time. Sometimes it is 60/40 or 90/10. We lean on each other emotionally and physically from time to time. And it is hard. And it is messy. But somewhere in the midst of this never-ending re-negotiation of roles and responsibilities is the truest testament of commitment and love that exists.

…until death do us part.

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